Lifestyle 31 July 2017
This Swimsuit Brand Flatters EveryBody
Shopping for a new bathing suit can be wrought with stress and emotional issues for women. Between feeling too exposed and trying to find a look that is flattering for your body type, women are gravitating more and more to the web for purchasing their beachwear, yet still face the unknown in terms of sizing, fit and material quality. Knowing this reality, two female entrepreneurs set out to create a line of swimwear that would take any negative side effects out of the swimwear shopping equation.
Founded by swimwear designer, Lori Coulter, and branding expert, Reshma Chamberlin, Summersalt is meant to flatter all women with classic styles that are at once fashion-forward, versatile and five times stronger than traditional bathing suits. The collection, which is made from durable recycled polyamide fabric tested on Olympic swimmers for wearability, is comprised of almost 200 pieces. To further help women feel at ease throughout the purchasing experience, Summersalt offers an innovative direct-to-customer retail model in which women can order a box of six looks, in addition to a “surprise" option, to try in the comfort of their own homes.
While the swimwear industry, which represents roughly $28 Billion, is certainly a crowded one, Coulter and Chamberlain believed there is room for disruption. Here, SWAAY gets the low-down on what gets these two forward-thinking entrepreneurs out of bed each day.
1. When did you launch the company? What were the first steps?
"We launched on May 23rd 2017, just in time for Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer. We closely examined the industry, our skillsets and the market opportunity and began drafting a plan of action. We really wanted to create a true direct-to-consumer brand and began working through the business model, the collection, the brand, the digital experience, fulfillment and all the other components that are required to create an impactful and scalable business," says Coulter.
2. Swimwear is such a crowded market. Where did you see white space?
"The swimwear market has historically been dominated by vertical retailers and licensed department store brands, with high cost structures and multiple middlemen. We know that consumers today prefer the convenience of shopping at home and expect quality for an affordable price. Summersalt cuts out the middleman and goes directly to the consumer to create a true direct-to-consumer swimwear category. By drawing from our extensive swimwear experience, we are able to offer our consumer a $200+ designer swimsuit for just $95," says Coulter.
"We created Summersalt to provide designer swimwear without the designer price tag, and a brand that stood for the way we live our lives - beyond the lounge chair."
3. Can you speak a little about how women purchase swimsuits? Is it a more difficult purchase than other articles of clothing?
"Women try up to 20 swimsuits and shop multiple stores to find the right suit for them. Purchasing swimwear is often met with anxiety and over-sexualized images. At Summersalt we wanted to do things differently and make the swimwear shopping experience easy, affordable, fun and relatable. We created exceptional quality for the price point without sacrificing functionality. Our swimsuit fabric is strong, durable and luxurious," says Chamberlin.
4. What is your fashion philosophy? What makes your brand unique?
"When we set out to create Summersalt, we wanted to create a swimwear brand for women like us. These are women who love to explore, enjoy adventure and live life beyond the lounge chair, whether that was a slip-and-slide in a backyard or the beach in Tahiti. Our collection is athleisure-inspired without being exclusively for sports. We did away with most hardware to make it easy to put on and stay on, no matter what the adventure!" proclaims Chamberlin.
5. What made you choose the direct-to-consumer route? What are the pros and cons of this?
"Direct-to-consumer is the future of retail. Our collective experience working with other direct-to-consumer brands like M. Gemi and Rockets of Awesome have allowed us a front row seat to the incredible innovation and ability to create a much better experience and relationship with the consumer," says Chamberlin.
6. Can you speak a little about swimsuit trends right now? What's hot and what's not?
"One-pieces are more popular than ever and women of all ages are excited about this trend. Consumers also really like an updated take on traditional swimwear and want to incorporate swimwear that allows one to go from the beach, to hiking, to dinner by the sea," says Chamberlin.
7. Who is your consumer? Can you describe her?
"Our consumer is a woman who values adventure and experiences. She is an active participant in life and needs swimwear that can keep up and look great whether she's sea kayaking, playing beach volleyball or chasing after her kids at the pool. Our consumer is also increasingly price-sensitive but expects a high quality product," says Coulter.
8. How do you market your brand? How do people find you?
"Social media is an integral part of any business and we want to be where our consumer is. Our consumer finds products on Instagram and Facebook and through people she admires," says Chamberlin.
9. Can you share your 5-year-growth plan? Are you looking to expand into more categories and countries?
"We have lots of exciting plans over the next year – limited edition pieces and collections, interesting collaborations, pop-ups including our custom popsicle cart, and bringing Summersalt to women across the US!" exclaims Coulter.
10. Can you speak about confidence and how that plays a role in this market?
"In the past, women felt like they needed to look a certain way to wear a swimsuit in the summer months - a myth perpetuated by traditional swim ads that show perfect models in uncomfortable poses. But things are changing - now more than ever, women are supporting each other and becoming comfortable in their own skin. Summersalt is a brand for real women, living real lives. We always want our shoppers to feel beautiful, confident and bold," says Coulter.
11. What is the best piece of business advice or learning lesson you've received and why?
"In a life of the startup the highs are not as high as you think they are and the lows are not as low. Everything is a phase and you need grit to work through the problems and make sure to enjoy the successes along the way!" says Coulter.
"The grass is greener where you water it. In the fast-paced startup world we live in, it is very easy to get caught up in what other people are achieving and get trapped in self-doubt." says Chamberlin.
"I really believe in looking to others' success as inspiration and really putting the energy where you want to see results."
12. How does social media and sharing play into the line?
"We know where our customers are and they are spending more and more time online on platforms like Instagram. We wanted to create an open dialogue with consumers and also create content that she would really enjoy.
We have a cocktail series every Friday called Summersalt Happy Hour where we share summer-inspired cocktails to keep our consumers entertained. Our consumer shares Insta-images, stories, emails and more about her adventures in Summersalt," says Chamberlin.
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.